TROKAAN PROJECT : 13 ASPERITIES
Liz Allbee : trumpet, objects, extensions
Richard Barrett : electronics
Frank Gratkowski : alto saxophone, clarinets, flutes
Gabriele DR Guenther : poetry, voice
Gerry Hemingway : drums, sound objects
Wilbert de Joode : bass
Achim Kaufmann : piano
Kazuhisa Uchihashi : guitar, daxophone
The Trokaan Project was premiered (under the name “SKEIN extended”) at the 2016 Berlin JazzFest.
Richard Williams, the artistic director at the time, gave me carte blanche to put an ensemble together.
Early on, I felt the poetry of Gabriele Guenther should be an important
part of the project, and I decided to use my long-standing trio with
Frank Gratkowski and Wilbert de Joode as the core of an extended ensemble.
Back then – as well as on the present recordings – there was no written music involved.
I consider all musicians who are part of the ensemble as high-level, real-time composers.
Right from the start, it was compelling to experience to which degree
everyone was attuned to listening to detail and counterpoint within the
ensemble, how they were shaping the music together.
As Gerry Hemingway put it after our first performance at the JazzFest,
“Assembling a group of improvisers is an act of composing.”
For the recordings on these two discs, we had the luxury of spending four days together, playing a concert every night.
Acting as a constant throughout, Gabriele selected thirteen
loosely-connected poems elucidating the notion of ”asperity” from
various angles. For some, we adopted specific improvisational
procedures, such as designated fast-changing solo spots and small
subgroups: game structures that turned the text into a musical score
were used in Paradoxically and From My Vantage Point where selected letters were “highlighted” by certain players, thereby unveiling semiotic substructures.
Long-Distance Thuggeries was
specifically created by Gabriele for this ensemble, a rambling
collage-style telephone conversation in five languages that invites the
musicians to expatiate on the virtual dialogue with their instruments.
Gabriele herself played a pivotal role in shaping the structure and
momentum of the music by deciding when to bring in a poem, by
determining the pace and dynamics of her delivery.
I especially like the pluralistic quality of the outcome. Aspects of
chamber music, poetry, improvisational dialogue, electro-acoustic
textures, full-blown free ensemble playing, and the occasional groove
all come together and interact in myriad ways.
— Achim Kaufmann
Over and above the notion of an elastically compressed region of
contact between two surfaces, whether rough or harsh or even tart, as
“asperity“ is often defined by dictionaries, here one hears friction
enriched between sound and the spoken word lyrically, almost like an
affliction elaborating the parallels. Each musician approaches the word
with his or her own particularity and virtuosity, some echoing
precisely the gist of what was said or implied, others warily,
carefully, using each moment like said surface, thereby creating sound
structures that hover for a second like smoke or a scent or a
propensity before recreating themselves before one’s very “ears”,
propelling attention to cockroaches dancing through an urban thicket in
Amsterdam, for instance, or a door buried deep within the entrails of
the Arno opening up to a lurid society underwater, a #MeToo scenario
from back in the ‘50s, all the way to a rant about beef and fried
chicken in an obese, jaded suburb enthralled by the body politic –
strangely foreshadowing the events of a pandemic just one year hence.
The music, all improvised, supports these images and then goes beyond.
The tableau becomes immense, subversive, sometimes reductive to the
— Gabriele Guenther
Press about the 2016 Berlin jazz fest performance:
“Another striking performance came courtesy of German pianist Achim
Kaufmann and his Skein Extended, an octet featuring poet Gabriele
Guenther. This was determinedly group music, played with a hive mind,
particularly when reaching the perimeters of an instrument’s
Much of the music was only faintly present, which made the several outbreaks of violent intensity all the more effective.”
Martin Langley (down beat magazine)
“The live performance of SKEIN was an excellent example of the high art
of collective real time creation. What made it a highlight was an
amazing combination of density and transient volatility, of
introversion and extraversion, of micro and macro, of unlimited and
pointed action and the rapid way of generating great dynamics from it
with impeccable timing. It led into greatly rotating parts and highly
trancing parts interspersed with Guenther’s conjuring voice. The
ensemble went the way of sound into a mycelium of lines and knots
patiently and quickly uncovering firing connections.“
Henning Bolte (London Jazz News)
Trokaan Project : 13 Asperities
Trokaan Press 006
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